The Book of Psalms, perhaps more than any other biblical book, has a way of striking us right at our center. All of Scripture has this effect, to some degree. But for all their curious imagery, the psalms are written in language we understand: the emotion in them is raw, sometimes unexpected, and always deeply true. Reading them we are struck by verses that makes us think, “Yes, that’s exactly how it is.”
Not every verse strikes us that way, of course. Some strike us like stones. They knock our feet out from beneath us as we jog merrily along. But there’s something about the first-person perspective of the psalms, about their vulnerability and openness, that gives us words to say to God when we find ourselves stumbling.
Sheltering Mercy is a collection of poetic responses to the first seventy-five psalms: each one borrows language from the psalms and from the rest of Scripture in order to, as the authors write in the introduction, “harmonize” with the original psalm. These are not close paraphrases or neat translations, but responsive poems rooted deeply in the language of Scripture.
And these poems are beautifully written—I love that about them. But I also love how they model for us, and for our families, a particular way of interacting with Scripture. The poems in Sheltering Mercy show us what it looks like to sit with a psalm, to consider its connections to the rest of Scripture, and to respond to God through beautiful language. This book is beautiful both for what it is—a gorgeous collection of Scripture-rich prayers—and for the attention and care for Scripture it displays. It reminds us that the psalms are worth lingering over and invites us to listen closely—to say with the psalmist, and with the authors of Sheltering Mercy, “Yes, that’s exactly how it is.”
Sheltering Mercy: Prayers Inspired By the Psalms
Ryan Whitaker Smith & Dan Wilt (2022)